Two words that strike utter fear and dread into the hearts of prospective parents everywhere. I had heard horror stories. My friend said that their adoption certifier actually had a white glove and checked for dust. I was thinking, Seriously? That must be a crazy one in a million kind of home study, right? Please, oh please, tell me that I have nothing to worry about.
So, four years ago as we were preparing ourselves for this life-changing interview, I asked our foster and adoption certification trainer what to expect. She asked who our certifier was. When I told her, she said, “Oh man. She will pick your home over with a fine. tooth. comb.”
Now, had I known her like I know her now, I would have know that she was totally messing with me. But I didn’t know. And I have since jokingly told her how cruel and unusual that was for her to say such a thing to this wide-eyed, Type A+, mom-to-be. It’s funny now, but I was TERRIFIED. What if clean as I know it is not really clean? How can I ever clean my house enough to be good enough? I actually had three different friends at seperate times come over to help me get rid of things, deep clean and keep me calm.
Serious as a heart attack.
And here’s the shocker. They still choose to be friends with this neurotic super-nut of a Mom.
So fast-forward four years. We were just up for re-certification last month and it struck me like lightening how very different this go-around was. It’s night and day and some of the differences are more than a little funny, so I thought I’d share some humor with you to brighten your day (or night.)
Above: Before Kids
“Come on in!”
Before Kids: “We’ve been waiting for you, on baited breath. We both took the day off. We have been vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, organizing, baking, and fretting all day. You have been the focus of our thoughts for the last 72 hours, minimum. I saw your car pull up just now and wondered when the perfect time to open the door for you was. I didn’t want to appear too anxious.”
After Kids: “Here, let me remove the baby gate for you. Sorry, don’t trip on that toy. I lost track of the time. Sorry I didn’t come the first time you knocked, I was changing a diaper in the back of the house and didn’t hear you.”
“Make yourself at home!”
Before Kids: “Here, sit on our nice, clean couch. We shampooed it before you came. We’ll sit over here on the love seat holding hands to show you what a happy couple we are. Would you like some homemade cookies? Coffee? Tea? Juice? Milk? Espresso? Water? Our firstborn? Oh, wait…”
After Kids: “Probably the best place to sit is at the table. No, that chair isn’t really safe for anyone over 75 lbs. No, not that one either, it has some sort of goo left over from breakfast that I keep forgetting to clean. Yeah, that one’s good. Would you like some water? Hope you don’t mind the Solo cup. I’m boycotting dishes right now.”
“What’s that smell?”
Before Kids: “Did I mention that I just baked some cookies? There’s a pumpkin candle burning, too. We want our children to come home to warm and inviting aromas when they join our family.”
After Kids: “We have no idea. We’ve searched for days and can narrow it to one of the boys’ rooms. We can’t tell if it’s a dead cricket that didn’t make it into the lizard’s gut or just general boy funk. We try to mask it with diffused essential oils. Not working, huh?”
Above: Pretty sure I took this picture the day of our first home study
“You can eat off our floors.”
Before Kids: “Seriously. I worked really hard. I scrubbed every nook and cranny. You could have a picnic on our floor. No blanket needed. It’s clean enough. Please, I beg you, come down here so you can appreciate the hours I spent cleaning it for you!”
After Kids: “We have a variety of options. Popcorn, cheerios, cat food…take your pick.”
“You need to see the bathroom?”
Before Kids: “No problem! It’s straight back through the laundry room. You’ll notice the new tub surround, clean linens, blinding white toilet bowl and smell of bleach.” (Side note: Shane was installing a medicine cabinet the day of the home study and it was still on the counter. We were seriously…dead seriously..FREAKING OUT that we would be disqualified for having it on the counter and not mounted on the wall during the walk through.)
After Kids: “I’m sure you remember where it is. Sorry about the laundry piles. I can’t vouch that it’s super clean in there right now because we’re potty training. There’s a diaper pail, training seat and general bad aim shared between our young man-children.”
Before Kids: “Right this way. All chemicals are locked up. Sorry about the fence. It’s not great, but it’s still standing!”
After Kids: “Right this way. All chemicals are locked up. Check our our new fence and play structure! The kids love it back here.” (Side note: This is the one area that has greatly improved since actually having kids. It’s amazing how your priorities shift.)
Above: What my kitchen often looks like for a few hours every day. Shane likes to call it “Counter Terrorism.” Hardy har har!
So, as you can see, things have changed. The process really hasn’t, but we have. We are comfortable in our own home and in our own skin.
One great big huge change for us was our relationship with our certifier. She is pure gold. But we didn’t know her from Adam four years ago and she terrified us. We have now come to know her as a close ally as we navigate how to best advocate for our kiddos. She is our cheerleader, an invaluable resource, and honestly, a friend.
To you experienced mamas out there, hope you got a chuckle out of this as you thought back to your home study experiences.
To you new mamas who are terrified about your home study, BREATHE. It will be OK. Home studies aren’t to be taken lightly, but in general, they’re looking for a comfortable and safe home for children. Hoarding should be avoided, but so should staging. Be real. Be you. There is life after the home study. A very, VERY full, busy, crazy life.
So make sure your chemicals are locked up, your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working, your fire extinguisher is up to date, and RELAX.
Blessings and much love,